Wednesday, March 6, 2013

EPA Calls for Expanded Pompton Lake Clean-up

By Brittany Ryan

 The US Environmental Protection Agency wants an expanded dredging plan to remove 100,000 cubic yards of DuPont’s mercury, lead, and copper contamination from the Pompton Lake, according to The expansion is in response to a study findng that contaminated sediment has graduated downstream past the Pompton Dam in unknown quantities.

Chief of EPA Correction Action and Special Projects section, Phillip D. Flax, labeled the study a key influence on the expansion, which would increase clean-up from 26 to 40 acres, including several hot spots of contamination. The lake-depth study was completed in 2011 and revealed that higher concentrations were found much further down the river from its original location in the Acid Brook area. Public comments on the movement of sediment and feedback from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the danger to aquatic life also served as influences on the updated plan.

Mayor Katie Cole said she is pleased with the expansion, with expectations for the work plan to be issued in March. This plan will detail the truck routes used to transport the sediment and perfumes that will be used to mask the smell of the removed material. The dredging operation will take place along Acid Brook’s Delta near the Pompton Lakes middle school. While hotspots are identified, the equipment will remain at this operation. Thereafter, the EPA will review the details and then hold a public information session to discuss the plan. Cole anticipates the clean-up will not begin until 2014, as DuPont still needs to acquire eleven state and local permits.

While the expansion is good news, residents are frustrated that the plan is only coming about now. Some complain that they have been suggesting the possibility of shifting sediment for a while, and have demanded downstream mercury testing for over a year. Residents feel both DuPont and the EPA are exceptionally slow to respond and are taking far too long to act on what should have been common sense. Executive Director of the Passaic River Coalition, Ella Filippone, questions whether the EPA’s plan will clearly outline DuPont’s responsibility to remove the sediment, possibly requiring them to seek additional permits, further delaying the cleanup.

Despite the concerns, the EPA’s Flax has full faith in the updated plan and believes it will remove a majority of the mercury from the Ramapo River-Pompton Lake system. Flax insists the EPA permit will sufficiently outline DuPont’s requirements to perform clean-up and any testing. Mayor Cole said she trusts the plan as well.

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